Albert Maltz Papers, 1932-1985

Scope and Content Note

The papers document Maltz's career as a writer for theatre and motion pictures and his experiences as one of the blacklisted members of the Hollywood Ten. It is not, however, a full record. The correspondence, perhaps the most useful part of the collection, is incomplete, and it bears some evidence of having been selected by the donor (perhaps to meet WCFTR's expressed interest in the Hollywood Ten) from a larger body of material. In addition, except for the prison correspondence between Maltz and his first wife, Margaret Larkin, and a few other isolated items, there is little true personal material in the papers. The most recent item in the collection, a letter from Maltz' estranged daughter to her aunt written after Maltz' death, suggests the degree to which the impact of the Blacklist on his life is undocumented. In addition, the development of many writing projects is incomplete either in draft form or in supplementary correspondence, and some productions are not documented at all. Maltz's notable career as a writer of novels and short stories is documented here primarily through publicity, those drafts having been deposited at Columbia University.

The collection consists of variant script drafts (many entirely handwritten) and other writings, notes, research material, correspondence, minutes, publicity, clippings (some available only on microfilm), and recordings. Photographs received with the papers have been separated to the WCFTR Name and Titles files.

The BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION consists of general scrapbooks (available only on microfilm), a transcript of a 1940 interview, some notes prepared by Maltz about the papers, and a recording of his funeral service. The scrapbooks document criticism Maltz experienced from the Left after publishing an article in New Masses concerning the political role of writers, as well as the HUAC trials and his relationship with Frank Sinatra in the scripting of The Execution of Private Slovik. Related to this material is a two-volume oral history interview of Maltz held by the University of California-Los Angeles and a shorter interview concerning the the Theatre Union and the Mercury Theatre held by Columbia University.

The THEATRE materials, which are arranged alphabetically by title, were reevaluated and rearranged when additions to the collection were incorporated in 1991. Because the publicity about the Theatre Union originally filed in this section of the papers was tied by internal evidence to Margaret Larkin's career as executive secretary for TU these files were rearranged in a separate series of her papers.

Disappointingly, the scripts for Maltz's most important Theatre Union productions are not original drafts dating from the 1930's but clean typescripts made years later when Maltz resided in Mexico. Important contemporary playwrighting material, however, is present for unstaged plays he wrote for the Theatre Union including Rehearsal and Zero Hour, which was an effort by Maltz and George Sklar to revise Peace on Earth in 1940. There are also extensive files for several unproduced plays written during the 1950's. Photographs of The Black Pit and of several foreign productions of Maltz's TU plays are available in the WCFTR Title file. Available only on microfilm are clippings, primarily foreign and domestic reviews, concerning these productions.

Writing for RADIO is documented by variant script drafts for Red Head Baker, a play produced by CBS in 1937.

MOTION PICTURES represent the largest and most important aspect of Maltz's career documented in the collection. This series is arranged alphabetically by production title. Included are variant drafts, often beginning with very extensive handwritten notes reflecting Maltz's research and his careful development of the story and characters, complete handwritten drafts, and finally typed and/or mimeographed scripts. The collection documents both produced and unproduced works and includes files on several important productions such as Broken Arrow and The Robe, for which he received no credit because of the Blacklist, and several productions (Exodus and Execution of Private Slovik) from which he was fired because of the Blacklist. From his early film career there are files on Destination Tokyo, Pride of the Marines, and This Gun For Hire.

The GENERAL WRITINGS have been subdivided into short stories, novels, speeches, other writings and statements, and writing done for others. About Maltz's fiction, which is more substantially documented in a 22-box collection at Columbia University, there are microfilmed scrapbooks of reviews. The chronologically-arranged speech files cover the period 1947 to 1974. They primarily relate to the Hollywood Ten, the Blacklist, and other political matters. Also included here is a complete transcript of the Stop Censorship Committee meeting in 1948 which Maltz addressed.

The majority of Maltz's writing on the Hollywood Ten is contained in the category entitled “Other writings and statements.” Unfortunately, much of this material was received from the donor as badly deteriorated photocopies. They were recopied on archival bond paper in 1991 to prevent further deterioration, but in many cases Maltz's handwriting had already become difficult to read. This section contains copies of a few items later published by Maltz in The Citizen Writer. (A copy of The Citizen Writer is available in the SHSW library.) Also here are several speeches he prepared for Edward G. Robinson.

The HOLLYWOOD TEN FILES contain examples of publicity developed to support the case; notes on legal and financial strategy meetings, 1947-1949; legal information; and recordings of memorial services for Herbert Biberman and Adrian Scott.

CORRESPONDENCE AND NOTES document the period 1936 to 1985 but coverage is uneven, and even within the well-covered periods, consists largely of incoming mail, with only a few carbons of outgoing letters. The development of many writing projects is consequently only fragmentarily covered, if at all.

In addition to information about the impact of the Blacklist on Maltz, this section of the collection contains many letters from other members of the Ten including Alvah Bessie, Lester Cole, Dalton Trumbo, and Ring Lardner, Jr., both during and after the HUAC trial, that provide good information about their experiences. This correspondence also documents well their differing views as they later sought to come to terms with the meaning of the experience. The collection also documents the varying impact of the Blacklist on other individuals such as writer Howard Fast, Maxim Lieber (Maltz's literary agent who sought exile first in Mexico and then in Poland), and screenwriter Michael Blankfort, who disavowed his earlier left-wing political views during the 1950's.

The early correspondence contains only fragmentary reference to Maltz's playwrighting career during the 1930's or to his association with the Theatre Union in New York City. There is, however, a 1936 letter from Clifford Odets responding to a letter asking for aid for the Theatre Union. Correspondence after Maltz went to Hollywood is somewhat more complete, although there are virtually no outgoing letters, and as a consequence little concerning work on particular films. An exception is a letter to Robert Penn Warren concerning his leave to work on a Civil War novel. Among Maltz's correspondents during this period are Frank Capra, Raymond Clapper, Albert Deutsch, Albert Kahn, Emmett Lavery, Philip Van Doren Stern, and Shepard Traube. In view of their later relationship, the letters to and from Frank Sinatra concerning Pride of the Marines and their mutual opposition to fascism are interesting. Among the incoming correspondence for 1946 are numerous letters (largely leftist writers such as Howard Fast and Alvah Bessie) received in response to a piece that appeared in New Masses in 1946.

The period of the Hollywood Ten trial contains extensive documentation on Maltz's involvement in the planning of the opposition to HUAC. Included are letters to and from other members of the Ten, Glenway Westcott of the Author's Guild, attorney Robert Kenny, and Carey McWilliams and Alexander Meiklejohn (mainly concerning the amicus curiae brief). For the period of his imprisonment the collection includes every letter written by Maltz to his wife. (Her letters to him are filed in the MARGARET LARKIN MALTZ series.) Because of the limitation on the number of his outgoing letters she served as his spokesman during this period. As a result, these letters are much more than personal correspondence. For this period the collection also contains letters from George Sklar and Edward Maltz.

The post-prison correspondence contains numerous references to the development and implications of the Blacklist. Here are useful letters from Michael Blankfort, Howard Fast (largely regarding his novel Spartacus), Frank Ross (re compensation for work on The Robe), and Herman Wouk. Correspondence dating from the late 1950's concerns harassment experienced by Maltz and others while residing in Mexico or travelling abroad. This period is also represented by letters concerning the extensive research work in which Maltz engaged during his involvement with Exodus. There is also material on his firing by Sinatra from the Execution of Private Slovik project.

Later correspondence, while mainly concerned with differences with Trumbo and Lardner over the Hollywood Ten experience, also contains an interesting correspondence in 1967 concerning his recollection of the production of Berthold Brecht's play Mother by the Theatre Union and publicity he received in 1968 when he offered financial aid to Solzhenitzen. Other correspondence deals with Maltz's declining health and work on various unproduced works.

At the end of the chronological correspondence are several special subject files, as well as notes prepared by Maltz concerning the correspondence. Among these are letters regarding Cross and Arrow received by the editor of the Daily Worker; correspondence lent to WCFTR for microfilming by Little, Brown, and Co.; and a file of letters concerning william Stevenson, who may have been the inspiration for the Journey of Simon McKeever. The Little, Brown correspondence documents Maltz's relationship with his publisher during the development and publication of Cross and Arrow and the blacklisting of the Journal of Simon McKeever, which began even before his conviction. The file entitled “Mexican witch hunt” contains clippings and a statement concerning harassment experienced in Mexico by other expatriated Americans.

The files of Maltz's first wife, MARGARET LARKIN MALTZ, consist of her side of the prison correspondence, speeches she made while Maltz was in prison, and files collected as a result of her responsibility as executive secretary of the Theatre Union. Most notable among the TU materials are extensive files of press releases. In addition to a few releases she prepared herself there are larger files written by press representatives Martha Dreiblatt and Ruth Pearse. These releases were individually crafted for various publications and are informative both with regard to the staging of the productions and the actors who appeared in them. In addition to Maltz plays such as Bitterstream, Marching Song, Peace on Earth, and Stevedore, there is also a file on the TU production of Berthold Brecht's Mother. Her papers also include a few posters and handbills, a history of the Theatre Union, a commentary on the New Theatre Movement, and a 1937 financial statement.